Posts Tagged ‘environmental integrity project’

This week marks the six month anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, a catastrophic storm that killed 88 people and caused about $125 billion in damages. Scientists have shown that Harvey’s strength was fueled in part by climate change.

Houston Mayor Turner has voiced concerns about climate change and pollution, recently through an op-ed published in the Huffington Post entitled “Cities Must Get Creative In The Fight Against Air Pollution.” In this piece, Turner says that cities must address the poor air quality that too often disproportionately impacts low-income communities. Specifically, he states that he will protest permits for new concrete batch plants. Turner also plans to address climate change through using renewable energy to power city operations and through electric vehicle adoption.

Yet, the city of Houston can do more. The Houston Climate Movement came together last year before Harvey because we know that Houston is at risk for the impacts of climate change. The Houston Climate Movement advocates for a community-wide climate action and adaptation plan.

In response to Turner’s op-ed, we penned this letter to him:


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In Winter of 2008 a coal ash slurry pond in Tennessee broke its damn, contaminating miles of downstream waterways and people’s homes with deadly carcinogens and other toxic substances. At the time it was called the worst environmental disaster since the Exxon Valdez and brought  a wake up call to the EPA that this waste product was entirely under-regulated. EPA now stands poised to set new regulations on coal ash waste, but the coal industry is lobbying strenuously against it, advocating for a much weaker standard that will do little to change the status quo.

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) has just released a report called In Harm’s Way which takes a look at groundwater contamination surrounding coal ash waste sites throughout the country. The report showed that contaminants at 39 coal-waste sites across 21 states have leached into the groundwater. Many coal ash sites did not have enough data available to show any meaningful results, particularly here in Texas, but the Fayette coal plant (which Austin is a partial owner in) showed considerable contamination beneath their site. Adam Engelman, Environmental Analyst with EIP, stated that:

At every one of the coal ash dump sites equipped with groundwater monitoring wells — concentrations of heavy metals such as arsenic or lead exceed federal health-based standards for drinking water, with concentrations at LCRA’s Fayette Power Project reaching as high as 4 times the state standard for selenium and twice the state standard for arsenic.

The report shows that coal ash itself is a disaster simply by existing, regardless of catastrophic events like what happened in Tennessee almost two years ago. EPA must not give into industry lobbyists and pass weak regulations that will fail public health and the environment. Visit Sierra Club’s Coal Ash website for information on an EPA hearing near you, and to sign up to speak at the hearings. If you cannot make the hearings you can also submit online comments here – be sure to ask EPA to adopt the strictest regulations possible.

In order to make a profit, coal companies rely on making the public pay for the damage they cause. We should no longer have to bear the cost of their mistakes and irresponsibility.

You can see the EIP report here and you can see the press conference that was held Thursday in Austin here:

Press Conference, Sponsored by Berman, Leo – Sierra Club on Coal Combustion Waste

or by going to the Texas House of Representatives video archive and clicking on the link dated 8/26/10 with the same title.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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The dramatic irony of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) decision this morning to grant the NRG Limestone Coal Plant an air permit (and therefore permission to begin construction on a third smokestack) is painful.  At the very moment that leaders from around the world are meeting to come to an international agreement to save the world from catastrophic global warming, at the very moment that residents of developing nations are begging for the continued existence of their land and way of life, Texas gives the green light to build another mercury-spewing, asthma-inducing, planet choking coal plant.

Not exactly what I was hoping to wake up to this morning.

This decision also comes just days after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came out with its engangerment finding, which says that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases represent a significant threat to public health and welfare.  Earlier this year, the EPA also ruled that TCEQ has not been adhering to the Clean Air Act in its issuance of new air permits.  This is the first coal plant permit that TCEQ has issued since that warning (which TCEQ doesn’t seem to have taken to heart).  AND, according to Karen Hadden, executive director of SEED Coalition,

The TCEQ is not following federal law (Maximum Achievable Control Technology or MACT) in issuing this permit and a result, mercury emissions will be higher.

So many hearts to break, so little time. But of course there’s always a silver lining. Next legislative session, the TCEQ (and a whole host of other commissions) will undergo the Sunset Review process — and as Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office mentions, that gives Texas a chance to reform the TCEQ permitting process:

This is just another example of why the Sunset Commission should take a good hard look at how TCEQ rubber stamps permits for coal plants in Texas.

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for progress in Copenhagen, and stay tuned at Texas Vox for more information on how you can help fight global warming and a 2nd Texas coal rush.

Full breakdown of the good (NRG has agreed to offset 50% of their emissions, though there’s nothing in their permit to hold them to that), the bad, and the ugly after the jump:


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